- Associated Press - Friday, April 4, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - Ian Desmond was bothered more by his running gaffe than he was by the replay review that overturned his inside-the-park homer and switched it to a ground-rule double.

And Desmond was not the only member of the Washington Nationals who encountered problems on the basepaths during their home opener Friday, a 2-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

Desmond got caught trying to steal third base after being sent back to second when his apparent homer in the fifth inning was wiped away. Bryce Harper also wound up in a rundown after a pitchout when he tried to steal second in the second inning. And Adam LaRoche was thrown out at home in the fourth.

“As players, we like it when a third-base coach is aggressive,” LaRoche said, then bemoaning that his team “gave up some outs.”

Said teammate Ryan Zimmerman: “We need to put pressure on the other team, as long as it’s intelligent.”

Desmond’s blunder came in the fifth inning, right after he hit a liner that Braves left fielder Justin Upton watched nestle underneath some green wall padding. Initially, instead of trying to make a play, Upton threw his arms up, waiting for a call from the umpires.

All the while, Desmond kept running, making it all the way around the bases, apparently tying the game at 1-all.

Hold on, though.

This is a new era in the majors, where all sorts of plays can be reviewed and changed. So Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez challenged the non-call, and Desmond was sent back to second base after a five-minute delay.

But Desmond immediately got caught stealing.

“I thought I had something,” Desmond said. “Then about halfway, I didn’t have what I thought I had and (then it was) panic mode at that point.”

Rookie manager Matt Williams called it “a little over-aggressive.”

The result spoiled the Nationals’ home opener and gave Williams his first loss following a 3-0 start.

Williams did not agree with the way the review went, pointing out that Upton did eventually grab the ball and heave it toward the infield.

“One of the reasons we have replay is to make sure that we get the calls right. I have a question with that one, though, because of what happened after the fact,” Williams said. “The fact that when he had to, he reached down and threw it in.”

Upton said he paused while hoping for an umpire to say the play was dead, but eventually did go get the baseball because shortstop Andrelton Simmons “was panicking, telling me to throw the ball.”

Added Upton: “I made the play a little more confusing than it should have been.”

Some in the sellout crowd of 42,834 chanted “Home run! Home run!” during the review delay. And after the homer was overturned, fans booed Upton whenever he was involved in the action, whether he was catching a flyout or stepping into the batter’s box.

Desmond, meanwhile, was determined to run until someone told him to stop.

“With the replay stuff the way it is now, not going to leave anything to doubt,” he said.

As for this season’s expanded replay, Desmond said: “Everyone’s trying to figure it out.”

Washington did eventually even the score, but Atlanta’s Chris Johnson delivered a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the eighth off reliever Tyler Clippard (0-1).

Luis Avilan (1-0) got one out in the seventh for the win, and Craig Kimbrel earned his third save with a 1-2-3 ninth.

In the eighth, Atlanta’s fourth reliever, David Carpenter, put two runners on with no outs. But he came back to strike out Washington’s 4-5-6 hitters, LaRoche, Zimmerman and Harper.

“We had him where wanted him … and just couldn’t get the hit when we needed to,” Zimmerman said.

In 2013, Washington went 6-13 against Atlanta while the Braves replaced the Nationals as NL East champions.

“They’re always big games against these guys,” said Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann, who allowed one run in five innings while striking out nine a day after being scratched because of a fever and upset stomach. “There’s going to be a lot of close games like this. Hopefully we come out on top for most of them.”

NOTES: Washington’s pitchers struck out 14, giving them 53 Ks, two more than the previous high for a season’s first four games, according to STATS. … Washington LF Harper hit sixth and went 1 for 4 with two strikeouts.


Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich



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